It’s enough to make a Pleistocene racist have a heart attack: Neanderthals making love to Humans, Humans making love to Denisovans, Neanderthals and Denisovans, and more!
from John Hawks:
The picture of Pleistocene human evolution has come rapidly into focus during the last two years. Before the last 30,000 years, the world was full of human populations that were around twice as different from each other as the most diverse recent human groups. Some of these ancient groups grew at the expense of others, but the “losers” over the long term still survived within the genomes of the “winners”.
We’ve been immersing ourselves in a series of Nova episodes on ancient humans, and following up with heavy google-time searching out what has been going on in hominin research over the last few years. Hawks is right: there has been an explosion of information blasting open the field, as of late.
Roughly 2% of the DNA of non-African modern humans can be traced to Neanderthals. Australian aborigines, New Guineans, and some Pacific Islanders share about 6% Denisovan genes.
Interestingly, Han Chinese and Native American’s only share about 0.2% Denisovan genes.
I suppose we could say that Africans are the most human? Stick that into your pipe and smoke it American racists, lol.
The Hominin Gift Of Genetic Diversity?
In one of the Nova episodes, John Hawks tested his students for Neanderthal DNA. One of the girls, a tiny blond, looked petrified. Unfortunately for her, Europeans are — by far — the most likely to share large numbers of genes with Neanderthals (as much as 6%).
I feel exactly the opposite. I’ve always been deeply intrigued by Neanderthals, and love that I may have nearly 1/20th of my DNA with them, making them (in a real way) my ancestors.
Given that humans faced a serious genetic bottle neck around 60,000 years ago, leaving as little as 600 souls, might it be that the interbreeding with other human species helped keep us from suffering the negative effects of this? I have no idea, but it’s something I’ll be looking into.
Most of my ancestry is Celtic, like so many white Americans, and it shows in how I look. I’m short, stocky, fair skinned, with a hint of red in my hair and beard.
While we humans are about 30 times more alike than any two random chimps are to one another (can’t remember the exact figure), red-headed-ness is far more likely in Ireland (up to 30%), Scotland (up to 25%), and Wales (up to 15%) than anywhere else in the world. It’s a purely cosmetic difference, but an interesting one, nonetheless.
I’ve often wondered how in the world this happened? Was there a weird bottle neck among these people causing the recessive traits of the survivors to dominate?
Maybe. However, it now looks like Celtic people went red via lovin’ with Neanderthals.
I rather love this theory. Now every time I look in the mirror and see red, I say “ooga booga”. (I know, I know, they had the Fox P2 gene, and could likely talk. But who is to say that “ooga booga” wasn’t the ancient Neanderthal phrase meaning, “Ain’t that some shit?”)